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Helicon Focus

The Three Ways Helicon Focus Stacks a Photo

Helicon Focus, the industry standard in terms of focus stacking, has three ways to analyze and stack your photos into one. You may have seen the words “Weighted Average”, “Depth Map”, “Pyramid” in the software. Have you ever wondered in what way were they different? Well, here’s a quick explanation of each.

Method A, or “Weighted Average”, basically judges each pixel’s sharpness using its contrast to the surrounding pixels. Then, it makes an average per image and blends all of the sharpest parts into one file. This method will conserve the file’s original contrast and colour worke

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Method B, namely “Depth Map”, registers the areas in an image where it’s the sharpest. It then proceeds to blend all of the images’ sharpest parts together. This technique is really proficient when the surfaces in the photos are smooth and present no sudden changes. Also, it works really well when there is glare or when you absolutely have to persevere accurate colours. The shots have to be in consecutive order for this one to work.

Finally, Method C, called “Pyramid”, constructs a final image by stacking the images together like in a pyramid, one on top of the other.  It works really well when there is a lot of contrast and strong lines in the shots but increase total contrast and glare and, thus, affects the colours. It’s particularly good when the images has a lot of crossing lines and when the stack is very large (more than a hundred images !).

Those are the three methods Helicon Focus employs in order to stack your files. Of course, there are a few sliders to change settings in order to fine-tune your results. If you’re not sure about which method to use, why not render a file using all three algorithms and start from the one that gives you the best results?

What focus stacking software do you use? Zerene Stacker? Do you focus stack at all? Share your opinions in the comments below!



How To Stack Images Using Zerene Stacker

If you want to focus stack images, there are really two ways to do it: either by hand with layer masks and the like in Photoshop or have a software do it. While Photoshop itself has an algorithm to stack your images, it’s not that great. In the focus stacking field, there are two main softwares: Helicon Focus and Zerene Stacker. The latter is the one I’ve been using recently and I wanted to share with you how I stack images using this software.

First off, you need to make sure that your images are proper. They should cover the full front to back with different focus points, be well exposed and be as noise-free as possible. The program needs something to work with. I like to export my images in three separate folders; one for the “before stacking” images, one for the stacked files and one for the final retouched and ready to ship photos. Once the images to stack are shot, I tweak them in Capture One and export them into the first folder. From there, I’m ready to open Zerene Stacker.

Once that’s done, you can just drag and drop all the files needed to have a focus stack for one photo in the upper-left hand box named “Input Files”. Then, go up to Stack and click on Align & Stack All (Both). You could choose the PMax or DMap options only but I like to select both as I will be able afterward to choose the best result of the two. When you have clicked the button, the software will align all of your images and produce two output files. You will see those files in the “Output Files” box in the lower-left section of the screen. You can click on each one to see what the file is and decide whether you like the DMap or PMax version better.

Then, you are ready to export your files. To accomplish so, go up to Files and to Save Output Image(s). You will be prompted with a window asking you to choose the settings you want applied to your files. I always go for the best quality in order to keep maximum data for the retouching later on. Finally, you can choose the location you want your files saved to (the second folder, in my case).

That was the basic workings of Zerene Stacker. The program can do a lot more and can allow you the have better control of your images than what we saw today.

Have you used Zerene Stacker before? Do you like it? Tell us below!